What Causes Hoarding: A Closer Look to Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding is a serious problem. But before you can attempt to solve it, you should make an effort to understand its underlying factors.

Hoarding can have a severe impact on your life, even if you’re not a hoarder. The effects can be devastating. It can destroy your home, your relationships, and your sanity. Unfortunately, dealing with hoarding is never an easy process.

If you are struggling with hoarding now or trying to help a loved one recover from hoarding, you are definitely not alone. Nearly 14 million Americans struggle with hoarding disorder.

Once you realize the gravity of the situation, you may have trouble understanding how things got this bad. Try to remember that this is something that happened over a long period of time.

People don’t choose to become hoarders because it feels good.

Many hoarders struggle with embarrassment over the way they live.

So, while you may be shocked or even angry, the best way to get through the hardship you are facing is with patience and understanding.

Learning about hoarding disorder will help you identify solutions. But it will also help you be compassionate in the face of adversity.

You must address the mental health issues that are intertwined with the mess you see before you, or things will never improve. Do not just enter the house and start purging. Recovering from hoarding is a long process that requires a comprehensive approach.

We designed our hoarding cleaning services based on these principles.

Here is everything you need to know to understand the causes of hoarding and what you can do to recover from its impact on your life.

What Is Hoarding?

Hoarding is not as simple as just having a mess in your home. It often results in serious structural damage and extreme squalor. But it’s not for lack of wanting a clean environment.

Many hoarders are unhappy with their situations themselves.

But because of the deep psychological issues they have, it is hard for them to change.

Most often hoarding is the result of compounded trauma that impacts the sufferer’s ability to make healthy decisions. They cling to their belongings because it gives them a sense of safety.

Many hoarders often fail to take care of themselves as a result of the deep depression and distress that they feel. Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have all been closely linked to hoarding.

People with hoarding disorder have an intense adverse reaction to throwing things away. This phenomenon, known as disposophobia, is connected to the deep fear that many hoarders have of not having something when they need it.

That fear can be because of an extreme loss or tragedy that the person never recovered from.

It could also be the result of the intrusive thoughts that many OCD sufferers experience.

Either way, hoarding is much more than a simple refusal to clean up. The mental health issues that hoarders experience make it almost impossible for them to problem solve effectively.

Is hoarding an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is a large part of what creates a hoarding problem. It also is what holds most hoarders back from making a successful recovery. The anxiety hoarders experience towards their belongings can cause them to hold onto things even when they have no clear value.

It can also trigger the hoarding behavior itself. If the hoarder feels like they have no control over their life, they may begin to seek out new items to collect as a soothing mechanism.

That’s one of the main reasons it is so important to resist the temptation to take control and force someone to clean up.

You must get your loved one’s consent before making any decisions about their things.

At Hoarders911, we always work very closely with our clients during every hoarding cleaning service to include them in the decision-making process.

It helps them feel safe and respected.

But it also helps them develop the skills they need to recover.

Possible Root Causes of Hoarding

Hoarding is a complex disorder that has many root causes. There are several mental illnesses that contribute to it.

Here are the common root causes of hoarding:

  • Family history
  • Traumatic events
  • Difficult life experiences
  • The death of a loved one
  • Extreme poverty in childhood
  • Homelessness and housing insecurity


Hoarding is most often a survival response. The trauma that hoarders experience leads them to compulsively collect things because it provides them with some semblance of security. That’s also why there are so many different kinds of hoarders.

A person who struggled with food insecurity during their childhood may hoard food beyond its expiration date as an adult. Someone who had everything taken away from them may collect anything they can just to feel like they have something that’s truly theirs.

If someone experiences intense loss, such as the death of a friend or family member, they may cling to items that provide them a sense of closeness to that person.

So, as shocking as hoarding may be to you, inflicting shame is never the appropriate response.

Holocaust survivors and hoarding.

The holocaust was a terrible point in history that impacts survivors to this day. It goes without saying that many survivors struggle with PTSD. The fear that such an inhumane event has left on Holocaust survivors makes it nearly impossible for them to live normal lives.

Compassion is key in helping anyone recover. Unfortunately, the effect of surviving this enormous act of cruelty runs much deeper than someone who hasn’t experienced it could possibly imagine.

It takes patience, compassion, and consistency to help someone overcome this type of struggle.

Still, many will need ongoing support for the rest of their lives.

Other Mental Health Conditions That Are Associated With Hoarding


For hoarders, anxiety can be its own mental illness that needs to be addressed before their behaviors can be resolved. Or the anxiety may be a result of disposophobia.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Since many people who struggle with ADHD have a hard time prioritizing or completing tasks, they may lack the skills necessary to live a healthy, organized lifestyle.


Deep feelings of sadness or hopelessness may impact hoarders for a variety of reasons. Depression can lead to hoarding. But hoarding can also cause depression.


As people age, they sometimes lose their cognitive abilities. This loss of functionality can lead to many issues that contribute to hoarding.


Hoarding may provide momentary relief to the intrusive thoughts that people who struggle with OCD endure. It can give them a sense of control over their lives.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that distorts a person’s ability to perceive reality. Some studies have shown that people with schizophrenia may develop hoarding tendencies.

Supporting A Person With Hoarding Disorder

If you know somebody struggling with hoarding disorder, your main concern is helping them overcome their challenges so they can go on to lead a normal, healthy life. The best way to help a hoarder recover is with patience and consistency.

Before you begin to think about cleaning up, get support from an expert who has experience dealing with hoarders. Talk to a mental health professional, as well as a cleaning service that knows how to clean a hoarder’s home safely.

Never enter a hoarder’s house unless you can confirm that it is safe to inhabit. If the home is unsafe, you may have to relocate your loved one while you figure out what to do next.

Do not rush the process. Hoarders accumulate their belongings over many years. It will take more than a few days to get things clean.

Forcing a hoarder to throw things away before they are ready will only trigger another episode.

Express your concerns as gently as possible and allow them to make their own decisions.

Remember, you are here to help. You are not here to judge. Harsh criticism and intense emotional reactions will only make the situation worse.

When should you see your healthcare provider about hoarding disorder?

You should always enlist the help of a mental health professional when dealing with hoarding. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine your best options for treatment.

In some cases, a hoarding cleaning service may be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or your insurance company.

Hoarders911 works with hoarders according to their healthcare plan to help them recover.

Our experts are highly trained to handle these situations with the utmost care.

If you’ve discovered your loved one may be struggling with hoarding and you’re not sure what to do, reach out to us for a free consultation.

We will help you assess the home and decide on your next steps.

Give us a call: 718 627 5781